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D/S Sanct Svithun
Det Stavangerske Dampskibsselskab, Stavanger

I've seen this ship referred to as Sanct as well as the shortened form St.

(Norwegian Homefleet WW II)

Back to Sanct Svithun on the "Homefleet Ships starting with S" page.

Source: Bjørn Milde's postcard collection.

Tonnage: 1376 gt, steel hull.

Delivered on July 1-1927 from The International Shipbuilding & Engineering C. Ltd. (Danziger Werft), Danzig as Sanct Svithun to Det Stavangerske Dampskibsselskab, Stavanger. Steel hull, 236' x 35.2' x 21.3', 1376 gt, 734 tdwt. Engine: 4cyl Lentz-type Double Compound (Danziger Werft), 242nhp,1650ihp, 14 knots. In Hurtigruten service Bergen-North Norway. Equipped with refrigerated hold in 1931 for transport of fresh fish, and with radio telegraphy.

Captain (since 1928) Samuel Alshager.

 WW II: 

When the war broke out in Norway on Apr. 9-1940 she was at the Klaseskjær yard in Stavanger for yearly maintenance (Kong Haakon was replacing her in Hurtigruten meanwhile), but was back in her regular service by that summer.

On Sept. 30-1943 she was between Vossa and Bukholmen near Stadt, southward bound in heavy weather when she at around 19:00 was attacked by machine gun fire and bombs from 6 British aircraft. She received several direct hits and was set ablaze. The captain and the pilot attempted to beach her on the west side of Kobbeholmen (off Ervik), and were able to place her bow on a submerged rock, but the stern part was sinking in the heavy swells. Her entire midships section was on fire and the heat was intense. People at Ervik, who were busy harvesting potatoes in the fields saw what was happening, and ran to their boathouses wanting to help. 12 people in 3 large rowboats headed towards the ship and were able to save several from the water, as well as from a raft.

One of Sanct Svithun's able seamen jumped into the sea and with great difficulty managed to climb up on Kobbeholmen where he fastened the hawser which was then used by many people to get to safety. They in turn were rescued by the rowboats; as soon as there was a break in the tall swells a couple of people would jump from the steap knoll and into one of the boats. After a while Sanct Svithun slid off and sank. The rescue operation continued until it turned dark, and about 20 survivors had to spend the night there, until other, smaller boats returned early the following morning to pick up the rest of the cold, shipwrecked people. The last person to be rescued was the captain, who had also been the last to leave the ship. Later that day it became clear that 78 or 79 had been saved, while 24 Norwegian passengers, 19 crew and between 10 and 20 German soldiers died (numbers vary according to source - another source says: 22 or 26 passengers died, as well as 10-12 Germans).

A possible reason for the bombing of Sanct Svithun could be that she had had 50 German soldiers on board at first. However, these had disembarked when she arrived Ålesund earlier that day (they later travelled south on Havda).

"Minner og minnesmerker fra 1940-1945" by Øistein Wiik names the following casualties (in alphabetical order):
Postal Clerk Håkon Mathias Bjørlykke, Steamship Girl Anna Lovise Bjørvik, Stoker Norvald Breivik, Mate Leif Sigurd Eide, Steamship Girl Gudrun Karoline Eliassen, Steamship Girl Margit Nilsen Gai, Steamship Servant Knut Olaf Fredrik Hansen, Seaman Alf Øivind Hestvik, Donkeyman Karl Bryndlund Johansen, Steamship Girl Anna Margit Johnsen, Mate Arne Christian Johnsen, Able Seaman Benjamin Lilleheil, Stoker John Monsen, 1st Mate Olav Nessa, "1st Class Girl" Kristine Emilie Nilsen, Stoker Anton Johan Pedersen, Donkeyman Søren Olai Sivertsen, Donkeyman Bernhard Kornelius Skår, Steamship Girl Stanny Elvira Olsson Sundstrøm, Steamship Girl Hedvik Alida Meier Tallaksen, Engineer Ragnvald Wathne,

I've also come across a mention of this incident in an old book I have, "Norge under Haakon VII, 1905-1945" Odd Hølaas (1945), which has a collection of newspaper articles covering those years (please be aware that there's a lot of propaganda in these newspapers). In the section for 1943, there's a small headline that reads, "When St. Svithun was sunk". The text reads as follows:

"2 mates were shot by the Germans, 43 Norwegians and 18 Germans have died. D/S St. Svithun sunk by British aircraft off Stad. The pilots gave the ship orders to stop twice, to give the crew and passengers time to go in the lifeboats, but in vain; the Germans prevented that. When the bombs started to fall, the 2 mates on deck tried to calm the panic and follow the unwritten rule of the sea: women and children first, but both were shot by the Germans". The information was taken from "Fri Fagbevegelse", I'm not sure what that is; it might be an illegal paper, or it could possibly be a paper printed and distributed in London, as many of the articles in this book are from London news. On the same page there's an interesting little snippet on Tirpitz, from London Oct. 10-1943, which says that Tirpitz was torpedoed by 2 British submarines of the Midget type on Sept. 22 in the Altafjord, causing bad damage, and putting the ship out of service for a long time. 3 subs were lost. It goes on to say that on Aug. 12 a 10 000 ton ammunition vessel exploded in the Porsangerfjord, killing 120 Germans.

Another article was found in the book, "Norsk presse under Hakekorset" (The Norwegian Press under the Swastika), Vol. II, 1946 by Gunnleik Jensson, which is also a collection of newspaper articles from the war years. These newspapers were under German control, and consequently are also full of propaganda and anti-British (anti-"bolsjevic") sentiment, so this account reflects the German point of view. It's from the paper "Nationen" dated Oct. 5-1943 and refers to the British as the "murderers", adding that she was attacked by 5 Beaufighter bombers. The headline reads "About 70 Norwegians killed by the English terror pilots".

The wreck is at a depth of 5-30 meters today. The ship's bell is hanging in the tower of the church at Ervik. Det Stavangerske D/S saw to it that it got the following inscription:

”Til Ervikfolket, i erkjentlighet for redning av menneskeliv i anledning Sanct Svithuns krigsforlis 30 september 1943.” (To the people of Ervik, in acknowledgment of their saving lives in connection with the loss of Sanct Svithun on Sept. 30-1943."

A stamp collector has told me that there's a stamp that shows Sanct Svithun sinking, in memory of her loss.

Related external links:
- 20 are commemorated at this memorial in Stavern, Norway.

The Tragedy of the Hurtigruten vessel Sanct Svithun - A website discussing allied sinkings of Norwegian ships (facts and personal opinions - text in Norwegian). This site says that people from Ervik could not get to the scene until the following morning. It also has a picture of the little church at Ervik where the ship's bell is located.

Hurtigruten Company Flags - This is a section of a German website about Hurtigruten.

Back to Sanct Svithun on the "Homefleet Ships starting with S" page.

(This text was compiled with the help of a variety of sources, incl. info received from T. Eriksen, Norway).

Det Stavangerske D/S later had another ship by this name (motor vessel) from the spring of 1950 (2172 gt) until she was lost near Folla on Oct. 21-1962.

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